Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Wednesday praised the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for their “bold step” of buying 36 off-the-shelf Rafale fighter jets from France.
Interacting with media, the Air Force chief said, “The Government took a bold step and bought 36 Rafale aircraft. A high performance, high-tech aircraft has been given to the air force to offset the capability of the adversary.”
When asked whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) was informed before the procurement of the 36 fighter jets worth Rs 58,000 crore, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa revealed that the air force was consulted at an appropriate level.
He averred that the government was given some options by the IAF and it was the prerogative of the government to choose among those. He also added that Rafale would be a game changer for the Indian defence system.
The Air Chief further underlined that there were differences between the Dassault Aviation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). “We had reached an impasse. We had 3 options, first was either to wait for something to happen or withdraw the request for proposal (RFP) or do an emergency purchase. And we did an emergency purchase.”
“There has been a delay in the delivery schedule in contracts already executed to HAL. There is a three-year delay in delivery of Sukhoi-30, six years delay in Jaguar, five years delay in LCA, and two years delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade,” he added.
Further commenting on the issue, the Air Chief said that both-the Rafale jets and the S-400 air defence systems, a deal for which is likely to be signed with Moscow during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India, are like a “booster dose” for the air defence system.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa also informed that “as and when the government approves the S-400 air defence missile system, delivery will be in 24 months.”
The deal for 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets was signed in September 2016 between former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and his the then French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian following intense negotiations. In January 2016 following the bilateral meeting between former French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Modi, the two sides had announced the signing of Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA).